Peru

A DIF­FER­ENT AD­VEN­TURE

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - Contents - BY DARIO MARTIN

A Dif­fer­ent Ad­ven­ture

Boast­ing land­scapes rang­ing from trop­i­cal coastal jun­gles and sier­ras, dom­i­nated by the An­des Moun­tains and the ever­last­ing snow-capped peaks; a mil­lenary cul­ture in the raw, and its con­di­tion as the birth­place of one of the rich­est cuisines on the face of the earth, Peru is at­tract­ing an in­creas­ing amount of at­ten­tion and in­ter­est from ma­jor tour op­er­a­tors world­wide.

It’s cer­tainly said this still mys­te­ri­ous, qua­si­un­tapped coun­try is quite a strong mag­net that draws scores of visi­tors with first-string surf­ing op­tions in the Pa­cific, eye-pop­ping views of the snow-capped peaks and the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, the jour­neys through the Ama­zo­nian jun­gle, the mys­ter­ies of Nazca and Para­cas, the stilt houses on the Tit­i­caca Lake, the ad­ven­ture of reach­ing through the clouds to Machu Pic­chu or the glimpse at the deep canyon of Colca with a chance to watch the hu­mon­gous con­dor, the lo­cal bears or the seals.

Any­one might won­der where this coun­try stood just a few years ago now that the huge me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions sin­gle it out as a top des­ti­na­tion in 2010, in­clud­ing Bri­tish mag­a­zine Wan­der­lust and their Amer­i­can peers Real Travel, Na­tional Geo­graphic and Travel & Leisure. In the mean­time, the Inca Path is con­sid­ered one of the top 10 ad­ven­ture trav­els in the world, while The Econ­o­mist says Peru­vian cui­sine ranks among the twelve finest on the planet. For its part, Arche­ol­ogy mag­a­zine la­bels Señor de Úcupe as the great­est arche­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­ery of 2009.

There’s no doubt this is an un­matched des­ti­na­tion when it comes to en­joy­ing breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral scenery and the value-added pos­si­bil­ity of a first­hand look at a gen­uine and liv­ing cul­ture whose mil­lenary roots re­main in­tact.

The Coast

A four-hour drive from his­toric and mod­ern Lima is the start­ing point for a grand tour that will surely take longer through the cities and coastal towns all the way to Para­cas, home to the name-like mys­te­ri­ous cul­ture that de­vel­oped there in 700 B.C., fa­mous for its mum­mi­fi­ca­tion tech­niques, skull surg­eries and mot­ley fab­rics fea­tur­ing geo­met­ric and nat­u­ral forms.

This is one of those travel des­ti­na­tions that ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers –a dry-be­hind-theears sybarite– wants to have in the bag.

Peru is no doubt an un­beat­able des­ti­na­tion when it comes to en­joy­ing its ex­cep­tional nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments and the value-added choice of watch­ing a gen­uine and liv­ing cul­ture whose mil­lenary roots re­main in­tact

Para­cas is a Na­tional Park and has a few highly in­ter­est­ing arche­o­log­i­cal sites, some of the coun­try’s finest beaches, cliffs packed with nat­u­ral for­ma­tions, like the Cathe­dral and such at­trac­tions as the Chan­de­lier or the Tri­dent, a 120-me­ter-long, Nazca-style hi­ero­glyphic .

There’s abun­dance of seals, tur­tles, dol­phins, con­dors, pen­guins, flamin­gos and pel­i­cans, an eco-friendly fancy ho­tel (Dou­ble­tree Para­cas) and plen­ti­ful op­tions for kitesurf­ing, sand­board­ing in the Ica desert, boat trips around the beau­ti­ful Ballestas is­lands, vis­its to the tra­di­tional pisco bode­gas and air­borne tours to Nazca.

The Peru­vian shore­line is one of the most sought-af­ter spots among surfers from around the globe be­cause of lo­cal windy con­di­tions that make it per­fect for world cham­pi­onships. There are well­known beaches like Man­cora, Punta Her­mosa, Punta Ro­cas or Cabo Blanco, and Chi­cama, on the north, which is highly cov­eted by surfers for its long rolling waves. This grand tour al­lows for a number of in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tions. One of the most suc­cess­ful ones is the visit to Piura and then move on to Chi­clayo, only to find the Huaca Ra­jada Arche­o­log­i­cal Site some 35 kilo­me­ters far­ther. This place is home to one of the top dis­cov­er­ies of the 20th cen­tury: the tomb of the Señor de Si­pan, the largest burial site of the Amer­i­cas, whose gems and trea­sures are shown at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Si­pan Royal Tombs.

In­land

The list of won­ders is long as trav­el­ers move in­land. Machu Pic­chu and the stag­ger­ing Inca Path are two of the best-known lo­ca­tions. Yet, there lies also the Colca Canyon –one of the deep­est in the world and dom­i­nated by a vol­canic range– where the con­dor flies high and the de­scen­dants of the mil­lenary Col­lagua and Ca­bana eth­nic groups set­tled down long ago with their an­cient rit­u­als, artis­tic tra­di­tions and cus­toms.

Right here –as it’s in­creas­ingly be­com­ing com­mon­place in Peru– visi­tors will find top-class lodg­ings, like the Ca­sitas de Colca, a set of 20 well-equipped pri­vate ca­banas that co­ex­ist in per­fect har­mony with na­ture, a gen­uine getaway of peace­ful­ness and lux­ury.

The Tit­i­caca Lake, where as the le­gend goes the first In­cas emerged, com­bines the ex­cel­lence of its nat­u­ral scenery and the sur­prise of find­ing the Uros –a com­mu­nity that lives on some 60 float­ing is­lands– as well as the in­hab­i­tants of the is­land of Taquile with their

guardian wives in tow. The in­ter­est in the area has ac­crued thanks to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of com­mu­ni­tar­ian tourism and such choices as Ti­ti­laka, a set of 18 suites lo­cated in a pri­vate penin­sula.

The Ama­zo­nia –one of Peru’s best-known re­gions, cov­er­ing nearly 60 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal sur­face– har­bors a con­sid­er­able chunk of the planet’s un­tapped wood­lands. Its en­tire ter­ri­to­rial ex­ten­sion lit­er­ally ex­ploits the jun­gle’s vi­tal en­ergy in terms of wildlife and flo­ral wealth. This is the land of the jaguar, the puma and the ocelot, of mon­keys and gua­ca­mayos, of al­li­ga­tors, tapirs and anteaters, and it’s also home to com­mu­ni­ties that hold on tight to their mil­lenary cul­tural ex­pres­sions.

For many, the best way to scour this neck of the woods is aboard a deluxe cruise from Iquitos, a city known as The Ama­zo­nian Pearl, which is also the en­trance to the Peru­vian north­ern jun­gle from its bound­aries all the way the depths of the Pa­caya Samiria Na­tional Re­serve, the coun­try’s largest pro­tected area which is also known as the jun­gle of the mir­rors be­cause of the neat re­flec­tion of the fo­liage in the wa­ter.

This vast re­gion is out­fit­ted with very comfy inns and lodges built in the heart of the Ama­zo­nian lav­ish green, let alone an ar­ray of boat rides and other op­tions it has to of­fer.

The Manu Na­tional Park, Puerto Mal­don­ado –with its own air­port and its boon­docks charms– and Cha­pa­poyas to the north, the cap­i­tal of the Ama­zonas prov­ince and home to the mil­lenary Chacha cul­ture. There are also enig­matic arche­o­log­i­cal ru­ins on the premises, like the pre-inca Kue­lap fortress –pen­ciled in as Machu Pic­chu’s younger sib­ling. All in all, they stand for great al­lures the Peru­vian Ama­zo­nia has to of­fer.

The her­itage rich­ness of Cusco, Are­quipa, Huanuco and Puno; Caral Supe, the old­est city of the Amer­i­cas, or Chan Chan, the ma­jes­tic clay ci­tadel, are also ma­jor must-sees.

The good num­bers the Peru­vian travel in­dus­try has put on the board in re­cent years speak vol­umes of how the coun­try has been grow­ing. Ma­jor world-class ho­tel chains have set up shop and there’s in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional air­lift from the Lima air­port –one of the South Amer­i­can hubs. In­deed, Peru is many coun­tries in one, a mix­ture of cul­tures, land­scapes and cli­mates, mod­ern and very an­cient lo­ca­tions. It’s now more than ever be­fore within the reach of those will­ing to watch it. No won­der it’s catch­ing on that fast.

Ac­cord­ing to Peru’s tourism author­i­ties, the re­bound of this in­dus­try must help reel in lit­tle more than 2 mil­lion visi­tors and over $500 mil­lion worth of rev­enues by the end of the year only within the gas­tro­nomic sec­tor

Gas­tro­nomic tours

Al­though Peru is blessed with over a hun­dred arche­o­log­i­cal sites and 80 per­cent of the in­com­ing tourism is cul­tural-ori­ented, gas­tro­nomic tours are also on the rise –as much as 5 per­cent of in­com­ing trav­el­ers– driven by the in­creas­ing de­mand for the lo­cal cui­sine with s fu­sion of con­tri­bu­tions made by Asian, Euro­pean and African im­mi­grants, and those hail­ing from over 3,000 years of indige­nous cul­ture.

In 2009, the Gour­man World Cook­book Awards went mostly to Peru: Gas­ton Acu­rio, 500 Years of Fu­sion, pub­lished by the El Comer­cio news­pa­per, was rec­og­nized the World’s Best Cook­book; the win­ner in the Best Restau­rant Guide­book cat­e­gory went to Lima, 40 Restau­rants, 40 Spa­ces, with fore­words penned by Fer­ran Adria; Cusco, The Cook­ing Em­pire, was hand­picked the Best Culi­nary His­tory Book; Peru­vian Potato, His­tory and Recipes, walked out with top hon­ors as the Best Trans­lated Cook­book; and Peru­vian Chicha, A Bev­er­age, A Cul­ture, was cho­sen the Best Book on Bev­er­age His­tory

32 cir­cuit

Inca arche­o­log­i­cal site in Mo­ray, Cuzco.

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